• IHG deepens resorts business

InterContinental Hotels Group has signed eight resort properties in Thailand, across its Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites brands.

The sites, consisting of conversions and new builds would, IHG said, drive growth in its resorts portfolio.

The properties, in the key resort destinations of Pattaya, Rayong, Phuket, Khao Lak and Koh Samui, are owned by Ratanakorn Asset and due to open from now until 2027.

Clarence Tan, managing director, South East Asia and Korea, IHG, said: “As a top travel destination for business and leisure alike, Thailand has always been an important market for us, serving as the regional launch pad for some of our key brands including Holiday Inn Express, Hotel Indigo and Staybridge Suites.

“Following the inaugural signing of Staybridge Suites in Bangkok last December, these latest additions will build on our growth momentum in the country and in our resort portfolio – a testament to our steadfast commitment to provide our guests with world-class accommodation, in some of the world’s best resort locations.”

Niti Ruangratanakorn, president, Ratanakorn Asset addd: “Recognising the Thai government’s Eastern Economic Corridor project is set to fuel growth across many industries, including tourism, we took a very strategic approach at selecting, not only the location of these new developments, but the international hotel brand with which we would partner to make bolstering our hospitality portfolio here in Thailand a success.”

The deal followed IHG’s acquisition of a 51% stake in Regent Hotels & Resorts for USD39m. IHG has the right to acquire the remaining 49% interest in Regent in a phased manner from 2026.

Commenting on the Regent deal, CEO Keith Barr said he saw a “real opportunity to round out our portfolio … potentially also in the resort space.

“A more comprehensive offer will have numerous halo benefits, including helping to strengthen our loyalty offer and attracting more B2B customers. It will further strengthen our owner proposition, giving us the ability to deepen our relationship with those who want to work with us across a broader range of segments and allowing us to fill a portfolio gap that many of our owners have.”

IHG was not the only global brand to be looking to bolster its position in the resorts market, with AccorHotels completing its acquisition of Mantra Group last week. Sébastien Bazin, chairman & CEO, AccorHotels, said that the operation would “underpin our long-term growth in the Asia Pacific region. Mantra’s portfolio would offer AccorHotels additional accommodation formats and a strong customer base to complement our successful hotel portfolio”.

Mantra operates 127 properties, mainly in Australia, but also has businesses in New Zealand, Indonesia and Hawaii. Its properties range from luxury retreats and coastal resorts to serviced apartments and hotels, under three key brands: Peppers, Mantra and BreakFree. Last year saw Mantra Group hire former AccorHotels executive Andrew McTaggart as a development manager, looking to take part in what the group described as its “aggressive” plans for expansion in new offshore destinations including Asia Pacific nations such as Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

May also saw AccorHotels acquire Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts for EUR482m, adding 84 hotels to the group’s portfolio, including four in Thailand, amongst them the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Karon Beach Phuket, a spa resort.

According to a study released last month by consultant C9 Hotel works, there were 36 new hotels in the pipeline in Phuket, with 27 properties affiliated with international hotel brands. The group reported that Phuket International Airport hosted a total of 3.5 million passengers during the first four months of the year, representing nearly 19% growth compared to the same period in 2017.

While the domestic volume edged up 8%, the significant increase was led by international arrivals which grew by 28% to 2.1 million, accounting for 59% of the overall passengers. The substantial uptick was mainly international flights, which represented a 27% year-on-year growth.

Bill Barnett, managing director, C9 Hotelworks, said: “Two factors that attributed to the growing number of flights include the ongoing popularity of low-cost carriers and strong demand from Mainland China and Russia. Demonstrating this trend is that as of May 2018, there were approximately 23 new routes to Phuket, of which 19 routes were direct flights from Mainland China. Viewing the upgrading and expansion of Phuket International Airport, clearly the initiative has helped spur broad growth.”

HA Perspective [by Katherine Doggrell]: You’re not a proper, grown-up operator unless you have somewhere hot and sunny where your grown-up road warrior guests can cash in their loyalty points and frolic in the sea, getting rub downs while they drink booze out of coconuts. If you really are seeking to offer the full gamut of potential accommodation, it can’t all be work, work, work.

Here at Hotel Analyst we are reminded of the 2015 study undertaken by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, talking to the SPG members about where they wanted to go once they were done pretending that they fitted in at city-centre Ws. Members identified a North American hotel wish-list that included more Florida and Caribbean resorts as well as locations in California wine country, Las Vegas, and boutique markets like Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. Desired global destinations featured Alpine ski markets, African safari retreats, Southeast Asia resorts and Northern Europe, especially the Nordic countries.

Not, in other words, the usual branded stomping grounds. And hence the Tribute Portfolio was born. But for destinations such as Phuket in Thailand, where the government is eager to capitalise on its already steamy popularity, owners need a little distribution spice to compete with the resort down the road and the brands are eager to explain their potential. As the current pipeline shows, with some success.

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